By Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday the Democratic lawmakers from Texas who left the state to derail Republican efforts to pass new voting restrictions have shown “great courage” and that she is working with people in the private sector to build a coalition to work on voting rights.
More than 50 Democratic lawmakers left Texas on Monday, denying the state legislature the quorum required to approve the measures on Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s special session agenda.
“I think they have shown great courage, and certainly great conviction and commitment,” Harris said in an interview with Reuters.
A White House official said separately Harris will meet the Texas Democrats this week.
White House and civil rights groups say the Republican-led efforts would make it harder to vote for many Black and Hispanic citizens, traditional supporters of Democrats. The state restrictions followed former President Donald Trump’s false claim that voting fraud was widespread in the 2020 election that he lost to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Biden has a scheduled speech on voting rights in Philadelphia on Tuesday. U.S. civil rights groups have pressured him to issue a strong appeal for congressional passage of voting rights legislation stalled by Republican opposition.
Harris said her work to fight voting restrictions adopts a multi-pronged approach focused on the need to register people to vote, educate them about voting rights and protect voters. She did not name any specific companies in the private sector who had joined her coalition.
Last week, Harris said the Democratic National Committee would spend $25 million on voter registration, outreach and protections ahead of the 2022 midterm election.
Asked if the amount was too little to make a material difference, Harris said “let’s do $25 million at a time” and said Democrats will deploy “every form of resource” into the issue.
Democrats worry that failing to act will empower states led by Republicans to impose more restrictions before the 2024 presidential election. Biden and Harris outpolled Trump by 7 million votes nationwide but won by narrow margins in several so-called “swing” states that ensured their victory in the electoral college.
Harris said she has convened meetings with leaders in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and South Carolina, and will also host leaders representing Americans with disabilities – a group likely to suffer from voting restrictions.
Last month, Biden appointed Harris to lead his administration’s fight against Republican efforts to enact voting restrictions. Over 15 U.S. states have enacted at least 22 laws this year making it more difficult for Americans to vote, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling also weakened a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This could make it much harder for Democrats to prevail in lawsuits against states, such as Georgia, that passed voting restrictions.
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